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James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy topped the Friday box office with $37.8 million, putting the quirky superhero movie on course for a $92 million debut and providing a needed respite from the summer box office slump. It’s doing far more business than expected and marks another sizable victory for Marvel Studios as it launches a new franchise outside of the Avengers series.
The Marvel and Disney tentpole will easily pass the $69.2 million domestic debut of The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007 to nab the top August opening of all time, not accounting for inflation.
It’s also set to secure the best showing of the year so far for an original property, as well as opening on par with the likes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million), Godzilla ($93.2 million), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($91.6 million) and X-Men: Days of Future Past ($90.8 million).
Heading into the weekend, the Marvel and Disney tentpole was projected to gross $65 million to $70 million in its domestic debut. The film’s over-performance points to stellar word of mouth and its originality. The movie earned stellar reviews and an A CinemaScore from Friday audiences.
Still, Guardians of the Galaxy won’t be able to rescue the ailing summer overall (revenue continues to be down 20 percent).
Featuring a rag-tag group of unlikely galactic heroes, Guardians stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace and Bradley Cooper, who voices the role of Rocket the raccoon. Vin Diesel, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro also star.
Hype around Guardians has been so high that Marvel and Disney have already announced plans for a July 28, 2017 sequel, with Gunn returning to direct.
The movie’s tone is much different than the Avengers franchise, and is laced with humor. “It’s much more of a space opera than a superhero movie,” Gunn said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Guardians is playing in roughly 4,080 theaters in North America, the widest August release ever (G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra played on 4,007).
Overseas, Guardians also did big business as it began rolling out Thursday, nabbing $11 million in a handful of markets, including $3.2 million in Russia and $2.3 million in the U.K.
Guardians wasn’t a cheap proposition and cost $170 million to produce. That doesn’t include Disney and Marvel’s pricey marketing campaign.
This weekend’s other new wide offering is James Brown biopic Get On Up, from The Help director Tate Taylor and starring Chadwick Boseman as the legendary godfather of soul. Brian Grazer‘s Imagine Entertainment produced the $30 million film with Mick Jagger.
Universal is handling the release of Get On Up, which is expected to open in the $14 million to $15 million range after earning $4.9 million on Friday night. That less than the $26 million debut of The Help in August 2011.
The biopic came in No. 3 after Guardians and fellow Universal title Lucy, which fell to No. 2 on its second Friday, grossing $5.5 million for a projected $14.7 million weekend, a decline of 58 percent and putting its domestic total at a pleasing $79.6 million.
Paramount and MGM’s Hercules continued to lag behind Lucy, falling to No. 4 on its second Friday with an estimated $3.2 million. The action epic is expected to gross roughly $11 million for the weekend, a 64 percent decline and putting its domestic total at an estimated $52 million-plus (the movie is faring far better overseas).
Fox’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rounded out the top five, grossing $2.4 million for a domestic total of $183.1 million.
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